Meat sharing between male and female Guinea baboons (Papio papio)
- Cognitive Ethology, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany
Abstract. Meat sharing in non-human primates has been linked to a variety of functions, including harassment reduction, mate provisioning and status enhancement. We present observational data regarding male prey capture and male–female meat sharing in wild Guinea baboons. Guinea baboons live in a multilevel society that comprises units of males with associated females and, sometimes, secondary males. Several males of different units maintain strong bonds, resulting in the formation of parties within gangs. Female–male relationships persist irrespective of female reproductive states, yet females may also switch between males at all stages of the reproductive cycle. Our data show that males capture and kill a variety of prey, including hares and antelope. Males shared meat passively only with females in their social and reproductive units. The occurrence of oestrus females in the gang did not influence whether or not sharing would occur in that males did not share with oestrus females unless an affiliative relationship already persisted, indicating that short-term currency exchanges of meat for sex are unlikely. We hypothesise that males may benefit from feeding tolerance by retaining females, while females may increase access to potentially nutritious and rare food sources. Alternatively, females may prefer males that are generally less aggressive and thus also more likely to share meat. Long-term data will be needed to ultimately distinguish between the two accounts. Although there is no evidence that males intentionally provide necessary resources to particular females during times of high energetic demands and decreased foraging efficiency, as has been found in humans, and meat sharing is generally rare, it may have subtle, yet important effects on the maintenance of bonds in Guinea baboons.